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Reaching for the Sky} ?> There’s a trope in anime where a character–usually an honest and kind girl–will look up into the sky and stretch her hand toward it, reaching out to something invisible. That scene represents the character’s distance from some faraway, seemingly impossible goal. But in that moment, I’m encouraged to think that she will achieve her aim, no matter how difficult. She only needs to persevere.
Anime teaches me that sincerity and determination are the keys to making my dreams come true. My real life experience, though, has been that sometimes no matter how hard I try, no matter how much time, energy, and resources I put toward a goal, I still fail.
Honey and Clover, the classic series about art school students trying to navigate the trials that come with romantic relationships, final projects, and life itself, breaks the anime mold and shows us that dreams don’t always come true, no matter how sincere we might be. But in the wake of our efforts, and even in our failures, we might be left with something unexpected.
In an ensemble piece comprised of a memorable cast, the Honey and Clover character I identify most with is Yuta, perhaps because he’s the most “normal” one. Yuta is even-tempered, industrious, caring, and skilled in woodworking. He’s the kind of character that’s easy for me to root for, one that I just know will overcome his obstacles and, since he’s part of a love triangle, am rooting for to get the girl at the end.
But Honey and Clover is a different type of anime. In it, hearts are broken, love isn’t written in the stars, and characters fail to achieve their aspirations. In short, the series is a lot like real life.
When I was a child, I was instructed to study hard, focus on schoolwork, and make good grades. I was a high achiever, but even then, something felt off. How could it be that no matter how hard I tried, there was always someone who surpassed me? And even worse, I would sometimes find that classmates who studied less would attain better grades. I grew up in this culture that told me that I could be anything if I put my mind to it. There was no wish too big as long as I was willing to put in the effort. But if I could do anything, how come I wasn’t the absolute best when that’s what I wanted to be?
Even when I’m the good guy, and I try to do things the right way, I don’t always win. It doesn’t seem fair. It’s not the message that many anime send. But it’s something Honey and Clover expresses is life at its realest.
I’m not sure if Yuta would think that he deserved to meet his goals because of how earnest he was. But I do know that even though he doesn’t get a storybook ending, Yuta gets something better. In the trial and despair of working diligently toward a life that didn’t turn out as he wished, Yuta undergoes a transformation. He doesn’t receive a superpower, a promotion to leadership, or the heart of the girl he’s in love with. Instead, simply and powerfully, one thing happens to Yuta–he grows up.
And that’s what I must remind myself sometimes, that when I persevere, when I pass through a trial, even though I may falter, there’s meaning and purpose in the pain. Though I might not attain what I mean to, or what I think I deserve, I emerge a stronger, better person. And if that’s not a great reason to look skyward and reach for the stars, I don’t know what is.
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